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Going for the Aces in Video Poker

6 August 2002

Those who read my recent column on strategy for Double Bonus Poker may have noticed that most of our adjustments are driven by the enhanced payouts on flushes and straights, along with the lower payoff on two pair.

Bonuses on four-of-a-kind hands are one of the defining features of the game, but we can't really do much to increase the frequency of the quads. We'll break up a full house to draw to three Aces, but not even the 160-for-1 payoff on four Aces can entice us into other strategy changes.

That changes when the bonuses get bigger on four-Ace hands. Take Double Double Bonus Poker as an example. In the full-pay version, payoffs revert to the same 9-for-1 on full houses, 6-for-1 on flushes and 4-for-1 on straights that we see in full-pay Jacks or Better, instead of the 10-for-1, 7-for-1 and 5-for-1 of full-pay Double Bonus. Even though two pair pays 1-for-1, as in Double Bonus, instead of 2-for-1, as in Jacks or Better, Double Double Bonus Poker plays remarkably like Jacks or Better.

There are some strategy adjustments to be made in Double Double Bonus, mostly because of a nice jackpot on four Aces when the fifth card is a 2, 3 or 4. That brings a 400-for-1 payoff, or 2,000 coins with a five-coin maximum bet. If the four Aces are accompanied by a 5 or higher, we receive the same 160-for-1--800 coins for a five-coin wager--that we get in Double Bonus Poker.

We don't change strategies to chase quads of smaller denominations, but those Aces are worth pursuing.

For starters in Double Double Bonus Poker, we break up full houses that include three Aces, just as we do in Double Bonus. In fact, it's less of a close call in Double Double Bonus, with a smaller payoff on the full house and a larger potential jackpot if we draw the fourth Ace and a low card to go with it.

But there's another move we make in Double Double Bonus to go for the Aces on a hand that occurs much more frequently than a full house with Aces up. When we're dealt two pair, including a pair of Aces, it's time to do a little jackpot chasing in Double Double Bonus. We hold just the Aces, and discard the other pair. In 10-7-5 Double Bonus, we hold both pairs, as we do in Jacks or Better.

One thing we don't do in Double Double Bonus is to try to force the big jackpot when we start with three Aces. Let's say we're dealt three Aces along with a 2 and an 8. We hold just the three Aces, giving us two chances to draw the fourth Ace, rather than hold the 2 along with the Aces and putting all our hopes on a single-card draw.

Some games emphasize the Aces even more than Double Double Bonus Poker. Take Super Aces, which pays 400-for-a--2,000 coins for a five-coin bet--on all four Ace hands instead of just those with a low-card kicker. Just as in Double Double Bonus, we'll break up full houses to draw to three Aces and we'll break up two pair to draw to two Aces. In Super Aces, we also forgo straight flush draws, such as Ace-2-3-4 of spades, in order to draw to a pair of Aces. In most Jacks or Better-based games, including Double Double Bonus Poker, we go for the straight flush. But in Super Aces, we'll hold a pair of Aces instead.

Or take a hand such as Ace of hearts, Jack of spades, 10 of spades, 7 of spades, 2 of clubs. Many players are tempted to keep Ace-Jack, maximizing opportunities to draw a pair of Jacks or better. In 10-7-5 Double Bonus, the best play is to hold Jack-10-7 of spades, with a long-shot chance at a straight flush to go with potential flush, straight and high pair draws. But in Super Aces, we hold just the Ace and hope for a miracle.

The most Ace-intensive game of them all is Triple Double Bonus Poker. Four Aces accompanied by a 2, 3 or 4 is worth 800-for-1--the same 4,000-coin bonanza for a five-coin bet that you'll get on a royal flush. Four Aces without the kicker pays 400-for-1.

That's a nice jackpot with or without the kicker. But here, unlike Double Double Bonus, the potential reward is large enough to entice us to go for the big one when dealt a low card along with three Aces. Given Ace-Ace-Ace-2-6, for example, we hold the three Aces AND the deuce, where in most other video poker games we hold just the Aces. That's true even when we're dealt a full house, with Aces over low cards. Dealt Ace-Ace-Ace-3-3, we hold the Aces and one of the 3s.

We even prefer a single Ace over two other high cards. Dealt Ace-Queen-Jack-6-3 of mixed suits, in most games we keep Queen-Jack to give maximize straight and high pair possibilities. In Triple Double Bonus, we hold just the Ace and trust to luck.

After all, in these games, we wouldn't want to be aced out of a jackpot.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski